Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Great American Torture Debate

Justin Frank is a distinguished psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Apparently, he feels that his knowledge of Freudian mythology qualifies him to reduce complex political issues to psychobabble.

On today's Daily Beast he declares that if President Obama does not immediate prosecute Bush administration officials who were responsible for counterterrorism he is missing the chance to purge the nation of its sins. Worse yet, he would be in deep denial. Link here.

Being simple of mind and empty of spirit Frank has no questions or doubts. He assumes that these officials were torturing poor Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that therefore we as a nation are guilty of war crimes. Only a public purge can assuage our guilt.

Let's see. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed forced Daniel Pearl to announce that he was a Jew and then cut his head off. The same Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also committed an act of war against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Who you calling war criminals, Justin?

Do you really feel that badly taht Khalid was discomforted on a waterboard? How about some sympathy for Daniel Pearl, Justin? Or did you repress that memory?

Like his cohorts on the radical left Frank limits his empathy to the poor misunderstood Khalid. Remind me now: what is the psychiatric term for people who feel sympathy for homicidal maniacs?

Like any good psychoanalyst Frank sees the world as a guilt narrative. Crime, punishment, penance, redemption... where have I heard that before? The story is older than Freud, but Freudian theory has mined its resources with uncommon skill.

Frank does not engage the debate about good or bad terrorism policy. He does not even castigate Alan Dershowitz for proposing that courts be allowed to issue torture warrants. Not at all. He jumps straight to his politically correct conclusion, and declares the people who practiced and condoned enhanced interrogation were sadists, which means that they were inflicting these pains on people because they found it all to be oh so sexually exciting.

How does Justin know this? Because it is Freudian dogma. Didn't you know?

Justin had previously pronounced George W. Bush the sadist-in-chief. And he suggested that this sadism had been formed in the crucible of the dreadful upbringing his dreadful parents had visited on him.

How does Justin know this? Surely, he wasn't there. Surely, he did not interview the principals. Unhappily, he was unwilling to let an absence of reliable information get in the way of a good bout of character assassination.

Oh, and by the way, what is the psychiatric term for people who use clinical categories for slander and character assassination?

An interesting sidelight here. Since Tina Brown is nothing but fair and balanced, on the same day that she published Justin Frank she also posted an appreciation of George H. W. and Barbara Bush by Christopher Buckley. Link here.

Read Frank and Buckley on the Bush family and tell me which one rings truer. Ask yourself which one has had direct knowledge of the people involved and which one seems to be projecting his own fantasies?

To buttress an article that is in serious need of buttressing, Frank compares the sadistic torturers of the Bush administration to a woman patient of his who he imagines has been torturing him by refusing to allow him to help her.

Another question: what is the psychiatric term for someone who feels that he is being waterboarded when a woman refuses his offer of "help?"

It seems to be a strange metaphoric matrix for the old notion of teasing.

Anyway, Frank explains that this young woman was abused by a sadistic father, and that now she is identifying with her father and casting Frank as the abused little girl, and sadistically torturing him/her.

Apparently, Frank has a poor tolerance for incompliant women. If the quality of Frank's clinical interventions resembles the quality of his thought in his article, I can think of lots of reasons why a sentient individual would reject what he considers to be "help."

At the top of the list would be: sanity.

Has this woman really been helped by the revelation that she is a sadistic torturer?

The next time she does not want to comply with a man's offer of "help," she now can choose between giving in or feeling that she is sadistically torturing him.

How many times have men tried to seduce women by asking them to have mercy?

Clearly, this has nothing to do with medicine or science. My own analyst was honest and intelligent enough to call this practice what it is: seduction. I recall him once announcing that people who wanted to learn how to practice psychoanalysis should read Kierkegaard's "Diary of a Seducer."

Justin Frank uses psychoanalysis to reduce complex political issues to ad hominen arguments.

Didn't he learn in Philosophy 101 that ad hominem arguments are the last refuge of the feeble-minded?

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